Itty Bitty Betty Blob

Readers might know the one about the gloomy introvert who feels like an outcast in a sunshine-and-lollipops world. This scenario gets handily flipped in Itty Bitty Betty Blob, Constance Lombardo and Micah Player's wry, sweet, and goofily good picture-book tribute to outsiders of all kinds.

Itty Bitty Betty Blob, who attends Ghoulington Academy and resembles an anthropomorphized glob of pink chewing gum, knows she's different from other monsters: she's really into rainbows and flowers. Anticipating picture day, Betty practices her most ferocious faces, but try as she might, she knows that "fierce is not me." On her anxious picture-day walk to school, she follows a supercute pink puffball into the woods and finds herself "in a place as bright on the outside as she felt on the inside." The experience stokes her confidence in herself in a way that ultimately has a ripple effect on her crotchety classmates.

The weird-is-normal all-ghoul world of Itty Bitty Betty Blob has its antecedents, but Lombardo (Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork) marks this territory as her own. There's the inclusion of Betty's unconditionally loving blob mom, and some choice wording: in art class, Betty frets that "nothing came out ugly," and while singing in the school chorus, Betty's "GRRRs turned into GRRRA-LA-LAAAs!" Player (Vampire Vacation), working digitally, seems to be channeling Charles Addams (who knew something about poking fun at "normal") with the book's washy gray and sepia backgrounds. Against them, Betty, in her resplendent pinkness, shines Hubba Bubba bright. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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